The Unexpected Winners of 2020

Well. We made it out of 2020. Or at least some of us did. I wish we had more people with us. Here are some things that I recommend based on my last year of life. Some of them might make your life better, depending on who you are.

The Ordinary skincare line: I actually began using this stuff back in 2019, but 2020 gave me more opportunity to try things out and nail down a routine. I usually order from their website, but you can find part of their line at your local Ulta store. I took a bad picture of their store in London last year. Their products are pretty uncomplicated and inexpensive. Here’s what I use:

  • Rosehip seed oil
  • Acetic acid
  • 2% Reintoid
  • Hyaluronic acid
  • AHA/BHA peeling solution
  • Glycolic Acid Toner
  • Mineral sunscreen

I don’t use all of these things every day, but over the course of the week, all of it gets used. One thing I use twice daily that isn’t on this list is TruSkin (vitamin C/hyaluronic acid). I used to use the vitamin C from the Ordinary but I found it too oily. Vitamin C has also helped my kids who struggle with teenage acne (when they remember to use it).

East of Eden: this book has been on my to-read list for years, and I finally jumped in and did it, with the help of my little book club. It is dark, heavy, and glorious. As a writer I could see little episodes where Steinbeck just wanted to include a funny story to lighten things up a bit. It was one of those books that I closed and immediately wanted to begin again. If you read it, tell me.

Nadia Hussain’s noodle jars: when shutdown began in March of 2020, I did a lot of experimenting with food to keep my mind off things. This recipe was a clear winner. It’s a little labor-intensive at first (and the smell of the paste cooking might drive your family or roommate to resent you), but it’s worth it in the end. Basically you make a flavor paste to keep in the fridge. When it’s time to eat, turn on your kettle (or as they say in Australia, “boil the jug”). Put a spoonful of the paste in a small mason jar. Top with uncooked vermicelli (I’ve found that these noodles work the best), frozen or leftover cooked veggies, and meat if you desire (I use canned chicken breast most often). When the water’s boiling, you pour it over the whole mess and let it stand for a little bit. Then you have a hot and happy noodle bowl lunch. You can easily do this at work if you have access to a way to boil water. See all of Nadia’s recipes here. You’ll recognize her if you’re a fan of The Great British Baking Show. She also has a show on Netflix.

New York Times No-Knead Bread: while we’re talking about food, let’s talk about the easiest bread you will ever make. The hardest part of making this bread is remembering to start it the night before you want to eat it. It comes out crusty, a bit sour, and airy every single time I make it. I’ve made it so many times this year that I have the recipe memorized (not that impressive. It has four ingredients.). If you want to take another version for a spin, try this no-knead everything bread from King Arthur Flour. I know you’re all doing Whole30 right now, but in February, try this thing.

Amazing Birdseed: This is such a weird one. About halfway through the year I upgraded the kind of birdseed I buy, and we are the most popular lot in the neighborhood now. It turns out the Audubon society really knows something about birds, go figure. It’s been great to watch the huge variety of birds we play host to. I also bought one of these bird feeders for the dining room (where we do school most days) and it’s downright distracting — in the best way. Here is the bird seed I buy at our local Lowe’s.

So there you have it — skincare, books, food, food, bird food. Seems about right for a year at home. What were your winners for last year?